By Jen P
I, like most discerning movie watchers, skipped Jem when it came out last year. Another 80’s-cartoon-turned-modern-day-film just didn’t fit in my theater budget. Especially when there were no superheros or truly outrageous special effects to be seen in the trailer (See what I did there?). But on a random Thursday night, when I had a little free time and an extra 2$ to spare, I stopped at a Redbox and picked up last year’s box office failure. Something made me choose it over the critically acclaimed The Martian; fan favorite, The Mockingjay; or sillier fare, such as The Night Before and Daddy’s Home. And I missed ALL of those in the theater. So imagine my surprise, when Jem turned out to be an entertaining treat for the whole family. Sure, plot holes abound, and some of the acting was sub-par, but the music was on point, and I ended up ignoring all the flaws because of the sheer joy and good message the film delivered.
Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples) is an amazing singer with a fear of being on camera, while her three sisters are confident beacons of individuality. Kimber (Stefanie Scott), Jerrica’s only biological sister of the bunch, is a social media queen. Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) is the guitarist and the blue-haired “edgy one”. And Shana (Aurora Perrineau) is the drummer and stylist of the group. The bond these four share is facilitated by Jerrica and Kimber’s aunt (Molly Ringwald), who raised the two girls alongside Aja and Shana, her adopted daughters, after their father died. Whew. That was a mouthful.
Anyway, Jerrica records herself singing as Jem (a nickname her father gave her), and thinking she’s deleted the file, gives the camera to Kimber, who of course, uploads it. Instant internet fame ensues, and before the girls know it, they’re shipped off to Hollywood to sign a record deal with the villainous Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis). And for you sci-fi geeks, there’s a subplot involving an AI robot.
Some things they did right:
In the original cartoon, the villain was a man– Eric Raymond– so the feminist in me was especially excited to see a woman playing the part.
There’s so much love in this story, it’s a great pick-me-up type film for rainy days.
The music is pretty damn awesome.
*Spoiler* We get Ke$ha for 30 seconds as Pizazz, the leader of the Misfits, during the credits. (I’m guessing they planned on a sequel)
Some things they did wrong:
The producers have been accused of white-washing the cast. Aurora Perrineau’s character, Shana, is supposed to be black, though it’s not Perrineau’s fault the directors cast her that way– she’s actually pretty great in the part. Perrineu is of half black, half white heritage, and her parents are both alums of TV’s Lost– Brittany and Harold Perrineau played Mary Jo and Michael respectively.
Jacked-as-hell Rio (Ryan Guzman) is in no way believable as the son of teensy weensy Erica Raymond, plus he looks waaaaaay too old for 16-year-old, Jerrica. Which makes sense, because he’s 28 in real life. That’s not saying he isn’t gorgeous…
The Misfits would have been so much fun in this movie! I’m incredibly annoyed they weren’t utilized.
Nobody gets internet famous overnight, or a record deal within a week of said internet fame. Plus, they wouldn’t yet have screaming fans, enough practice to perform, or the confidence to do so– especially with how camera-shy Jerrica was before– even with all the new clothes, wigs, and makeup. But I guess that’s why it’s a fantasy movie.
All cons taken into consideration, this is a feel good movie with upbeat music and a fresh-faced cast. There’s even a tissue-worthy moment near the end. I’m not saying it’s a great film, but it’s incredibly watchable, and I’ll probably end up buying the Blu-ray. But give it a try at your local Redbox and make up your own mind. Why not, right? You only have 2$ and a couple of hours to lose.
What do you think? Will you give Jem a watch? Did you already? Share your thoughts in the comments section.